While the Knicks season came to a disappointing ending, Tom Thibodeau’s work in turning the franchise around this season earned him the Red Auerbach Trophy as the 2020-21 NBA Coach of the Year.
In his first year with the Knicks, Thibodeau took a team from 21-45 the previous season to a 41-31 record and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. He has become the first coach to earn the award in his first season with two different franchises, having won the award in 2010-11 in his first season as a head coach with the Chicago Bulls.
"I know what this team means to the city," Thibodeau said. "So it's very meaningful. Also, to have the group that we had this year, just the way they played and they sacrificed and they played for each other, it was special. Every day you looked forward to seeing these guys. They gave you everything they had. And whenever we fell short, the next day, they'd come right in with great determination and a willingness to succeed. And that's what made the group special."
Thibodeau edged out Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams for the award after Williams was named the winner of the vote of their peers for the National Basketball Coaches Association Award. Thibodeau received 43 first-place votes and earned 351 total points while Williams, finished in second place, taking the most first place votes with 45 and totaling 340 points. The 11-point difference was the tightest margin since the current format was introduced in the 2002-03 season.
Utah’s Quin Snyder finished in third place, earning 10 first-place votes and 161 points.
While Williams and Snyder led their teams to better records no team outpaced expectations more than Thibodeau’s Knicks did, earning a playoff berth for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
Thibodeau is the 10th head coach to win the NBA Coach of the Year Award more than once and the eighth to do it with multiple franchises. In addition, he is the third head coach to be selected as NBA Coach of the Year with the Knicks, joining Red Holzman (1969-70) and Pat Riley (1992-93).
"Anytime an individual wins something it's more of a byproduct of the team and I know that's the case here," Thibodeau added. "But to be in the company of Red Holzman, a guy I followed [growing up], and Pat Riley, I don't know if there's anyone better. Those two guys are special company and I know what those guys meant to the Knicks organization. So I'm proud of what they did and I'm really proud of what our team did this year."